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39 Actionable Growth Hacking Tactics Part 4/5 – Referral Hacks

All 39 Hacks are not in this single post. Part 1 Acquisition hacksPart 2 Activation hacksPart 3 Retention hacksPart 4 Referral hacksPart 5 revenue hacks.

Without viral growth, it’s unlikely you’ll ever find a sustainable business model. Paying for every customer with a full marketing dollar just isn’t realistic. You need to build shareability into the very fabric of business model – unless you plan on promising your first-born to Google Adwords.

Shareability means different things for different products. But whether you’re trying to improve your Referral metric for a iOS game of a B2B SaaS app, a simple rule applies: people won’t share a crap product.

You need to sort product/market fit first. Make sure your landing pages can successfully acquire signups at a good conversion rate. Make sure you have an acceptable activation rate that doesn’t mean you’re wasting signups.

Once you’ve fixed the funnel this far, then it’s time to start weaving shareability into your product and focussing on it as a metric. Here’s a few quick tactics to try.

Referral

27. Invite collaborators (colleagues and clients) to the app

Sounds obvious. Just a standard feature of SaaS apps, right? Having multiple users per account? But have you set it up so that those users can setup other accounts?

Look at this. You have an invoicing application. You naturally want your bookkeeper to have access, so that she can download the invoices. You send an email invite, she joins up. Wonderful. But, what about the other clients the bookkeeper works for? Maybe they might like this invoicing application too?

Make it easy. When collaborators are invited, make sure their login isn’t “locked” to just that one account. Allow them to setup other accounts on their own. Why not try looking at the domain of their email address, and if it’s a different company, try a prompt or drip message asking if they’d like to setup their own account. A promo code to use for other clients they might have.

In a B2B app, the only way you might be able to credibly build virality into the product is through collaborator invites, and hoping that occasionally those collaborators have interests outside of that one company. So make the most of them.

28. Encourage Social Shares With In-Product Rewards

Artificially increasing account limits in exchange for a throw-away tweet may not make sense for a B2B product – after-all you have a cost associated with each user (support, hosting etc.).

But for a B2C app or game, offering in-product rewards for simple shares is a great way to quickly get exposure to social niches. With cost-per-user of nearly zero, you can afford to give away a lot in a B2C app, in a pyramid-scheme style strategy. The hope is eventually, you have a layer of users who came in through an invite, but now can’t recruit new users, and so they end up paying.

If done badly (I’m looking at you Facebook and your BoringVille army!) it can piss of a lot of people and generally look ugly. If done well, like Dropbox’s “free space for invites”, it can create the hockey-stick of sustainable growth you’ve been looking for.

29. Double-sided incentivised referral schemes

You’re confident that your product is good enough to share. You’ve already seen a few bits of feedback to suggest users are starting to refer buddies through word of mouth.

So grease the wheels. Make sure people have a clear reward to refer their buddies, but also make sure the buddy has an incentive to sign up through that referral.

This is because you want to be able to track the data properly. With a referral scheme that only rewards the referrer, you may have skewed data where someone discovered the product through a referral, but decided to find a promo code elsewhere on the web and sign-up through that.

Now you’ll incorrectly think the discount promo code is doing great, and wont give your referral scheme the kudos (and budget) it deserves.

Tools like trak.io are great at telling you who the very first referrer was of a customer – even if they come back months later via another promotion and signup. You’ll be able to track the attribution back to that first point of awareness.

Use double-sided incentives. If you plan on giving 250 Crystals for to a customer every time they refer a friend, why not incentivise the friend too: “Signup with my link and start the game with 250 bonus Crystals”.

30. Use “Powered By…” but don’t use “Powered By”

Sometimes you have customers who can’t quite afford your first paid plan, but have outgrown your free plan. For these users, you can offer a “free, but you gotta help us out” deal. Usually, a link or a button is placed discretely on their website, or their use of the product i.e. it’s not white-label.

Mailchimp are masters of this tactic, so much so that I see many companies leave their “Chimp Badge” in place even after they have subscribed to a free plan.

However, “Powered by” is the language of a Web 1.0 era, where people were literally ‘wowed’ by the very idea that you had some analytics logging software powering your website. That your website was physically being powered by an IBM mainframe. That your credit card transactions were actually powered by a bank. “Oooh, the power of the internet!”

Using the phrase “Powered by..” is lame. It’s old fashioned. People just use it because it’s what people have always used. It tells me nothing about why I should click the link or what the service does.

It’s the sort of marketing innovation you’d expect from Microsoft.

Instead, use something in your buttons/links that actually entices a Call To Action. Instead of “Powered by Uppy.io” why not “Get 100% uptime with Uppy.io” or “Keep it Uppy.io”.

Use a creative phrase that will actually entice interested clicks. Forget SEO (these sort of links carry no SEO juice and should be rel=”nofollow”). It’s all about crafting a cheeky slogan that delivers brand awareness and direct traffic.

31. Create embeddable widgets

While not applicable to all products, if you can find an embeddable component in your product then you have a nuclear viral mechanism. Youtube’s embeddable video player is arguably the reason they managed to dominate the video hosting space so early. People knew when they saw the Youtube logo that the video would load fast, in all browsers.

Youtube became a household name, with regular internet users, because of their embeddable video player.

Slideshare also totally rocked this tactic with their Powerpoint viewer. Who knew that a pretty ugly, quite pixelated experience of browsing a powerpoint slide within someone else’s webpage would allow Slideshare to land a $119 million exit (LinkedIn acquired them).

Without being artificial, is there a component of your product that becomes valuable if embedded within someone else’s website? Is that value strong enough to pull people over the friction of copy-pasting code (WordPress editors for example strip most embed codes away).

If you can create an embeddable widget, and stick your logo on it, then you have another amazing powerful viral mechanism at your fingertips.

Bonus: And if the widget has the referral link of the original user, you’ll be able to track this referral performance in tools like trak.io literally down to individual customers.

Published by

Liam Gooding

Liam is the cofounder and CEO of Trakio. Previously an engineer, he writes about growing subscription companies using data-driven techniques and inside glimpses to Trakio's own growth journey. He wrote a book, "Growth Pirate!" which discusses data-driven growth strategies for startups.

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  • Kylegfitz

    Good Stuff! Loving all your tactics. Although I gotta say, for #30, GoDaddy has had an insane amount of success linking back to their site with dofollow links. It’s incredibly spammy and a lot of users are aware of how to remove it, but it makes GoDaddy rank incredibly well for crazy competitive keywords.

  • laughingsucks

    If you’re a SaaS company using Stripe as your billing setup you should check out http://referralpop.com to setup a quick and easy referral program.

  • Brandon Gains

    Great article Liam, understanding how to take advantage of word of mouth is a key growth tactic. We wrote up a similar article going over 15 ways companies can tell their users about their referral program. Check it out here: http://www.referralsaasquatch.com/customer-referral-program-template/